Advice for starting out in software development
To mark National Coding week in schools, some of the more recent joiners in our software team have shared their advice for pupils or students looking to learn programming languages.
Never be afraid of making mistakes
After all, code can always be re-written. Be confident enough to recognise when you have hit a dead end and need to go back to the drawing board.
It is worth attempting as many small personal projects as possible (even if you do not finish them). The best way to learn is through experience.
Adopt the mindset of continuous learning
Make sure that you build something you are interested in – and that you understand how and why it works. Be curious and ask lots of questions.
Learn the Why, not just the How.
Programming Languages will evolve or change in popularity. If you learn the concepts of programming as you learn a language, then you can pick up any language when needed.
Take part in a Hackathon
My university hosted an annual hackathon – a 24-hour, overnight event during where you teamed up with friends or strangers to hack together a product.
Companies often send people to these events to advertise their products and show you how to incorporate them into your project. This is a great way to get familiar with new technologies and gives an opportunity to interact with and learn from professionals who already work in the industry.
Even if you stick to using your existing knowledge, coding at a hackathon differs from coding at school/university in a big way – you are working as a team. A lot of university courses nowadays will cover programming, but hardly any teach you what it is like to program with other people. Learning to code is often a very solo experience but in industry you will very rarely be the only person looking at a piece of code.
As you gain experience, build up a portfolio
By far the most important thing for getting started in a software career is to have a good portfolio (with a visible codebase/git).
This demonstrates initiative and evidences your ability to write code and solve problems independently. It also proves that you like to write code! Any portfolio piece should be carefully written to ensure that it shows the best version of the code you can write.
There is no single route into coding
If you want to learn a skill – but the method you are using right now is not working, try a different approach. It might be slow or take more time, but you can get there eventually.
Where can I find online resources for learning to code?
If you feel inspired to try programming for yourself, here is a list of recommended resources for online learning:
To find out more about OCC’s work, see our past projects.